Jim Ginn threatens that he’s going to stop giving away car magnets for free. But the Upper Township entrepreneur seems as stuck to the habit as his ubiquitous magnets are to the trunks of vehicles tooling around Jersey shore towns.
Just this week, Ginn – who has given away 200,000 car magnets in two years, 85 percent of them in the last year alone – received 5,000 pastel-colored bunny magnets bearing the imprint SICNJ.com. Seven thousand bunny magnets imprinted OCNJ.com are on order, and 2,000 Peeps-shaped magnets – 1,000 each for Sea Isle City and Ocean City – will be available before Easter.
“I couldn’t help myself,” said Ginn, who has single-handedly done as much to put an Ocean City presence on the public’s radar as any tourism campaign has, and has done so for far less money. Additionally, the Sea Isle City real estate agency owner has distributed car magnets – themed to the season – for UTNJ.com (Upper Township), CMNJ.com (Cape May), ACNJ.com, and his various other websites, including AtTheShore.com and BeachToBay.com.
“He is the king of magnets,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Jim Ginn has put a lot out there, and we’re grateful to him. We think that’s a good thing. It’s worthy of putting into a marketing plan for tourism and a place like Ocean City.”
She said the chamber and the city’s Tourism Commission have discussed such an initiative. “We realize the value of having all those magnets going all over the place,” Gillian said.
Ditto, said Jodie DiEduardo of the Wildwood Business Improvement District.
“It’s a great marketing tool,” said DiEduardo, the chair of BID’s marketing committee who made it her mission last year to get 30,000 Doo WW car magnets manufactured and onto as many vehicles as possible. “When you leave Wildwood with one of those magnets on your car, you’re advertising Wildwood.”
And that word travels far.
Gerry Ginn, who still lives in the house in the 500 block of 30th Street where Jim Ginn grew up, said she was returning from Florida two weeks ago when she parked next to a vehicle with an OCNJ.com car magnet on it. Later, during a dinner stop in North Carolina, she said a man with an OCNJ.com magnet on his car struck up a conversation with her in the restaurant parking lot.
An intensive advertising campaign last summer made Ginn’s magnets the must-have item in Ocean City, with people seeking them out at designated headquarters such as Boyar’s Market in the 1300 block of Asbury Avenue and Ready’s Coffee Shop in the 400 block of Eighth Street.
“People go crazy,” Ginn said. “You’d think I was giving out something of real value.”
“In one word: Obsessed!” said Doug Wing, owner of Ready’s, in describing collectors of the magnets.
Ginn said he once saw about 30 magnets on an older vehicle, and joked that the magnets were what was holding the car together. “There were probably about $12 worth of magnets on that one car,” Ginn said, giving the price range of individual magnets as 33 cents to 50 cents. “For me, that’s not a bad $12 spent.”
The drive to collect Ginn’s magnets is spurred by the constantly changing designs and shapes. Santa’s bearded face, a Halloween pumpkin, a turkey for Thanksgiving, a shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day and beach-specific themes such as lifeboats and flip flops have made collecting Ginn’s magnets into something akin to a scavenger hunt as the stacks of 500 he drops at various businesses go quickly.
“Changing the magnets so often creates a sense of anticipation,’ said Ginn, by whose count 17 different designs were released in little more than a year. “From hearts to shamrocks to bunnies, we made it a rage. Then it became a question of outdoing ourselves.”
“I liked the flip flops,” Ginn’s mother said, “but I don’t have any. Flip flops down the shore, you figure they’d go like hotcakes.”
In fact, Ginn himself said even he doesn’t have every one of his magnets in every color, mentioning as an example that some of the seven pastel colors of last year’s Easter bunny magnets – blue, lilac, orange, green, yellow, pink and white – do not exist in his own collection.
Color seemed to be what motivated collectors to display more than one of the circular Doo WW magnets on a vehicle, said DiEduardo, adding BID is ordering 30,000 magnets bearing a new design to debut by Memorial Day. In Atlantic City, where the DO AC campaign is entering its third year, 200,000 magnetic discs were distributed in the first two years. Melanie Sole, public relations representative, said she was surprised that Ginn as an individual had given away as many magnets as her organization had.
Ginn is aware that many collectors mistakenly believe the magnets are promotional tools for the various resorts and not for his web sites. “That’s a fair summation,” Ginn said. “People think they’re advertising the different towns.”
The attraction to the magnets, Ginn said, is what they stand for. “I’m marketing the fun of OCNJ,” he said. “I’m piggybacking on a good memory. If Coke made a magnet, would somebody put that on their car? I don’t think so.”
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